Listening to My Son Pray

By Jessica Wolstenholm

You never realize how little you know about a subject until you try and teach it.

This is probably why Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand yourself.”

This truth became even more real to me as I’ve spent the last 5 years trying to use every possible opportunity to teach my kids the wisdom I’ve gained over the last 30 years.

And as it turns out, I don’t know as much about the subject of prayer as I thought I did.

This confession would be easier for me to admit if I hadn’t spent the last decade in full-time ministry as a pastor. But the truth is, I’m no expert in the subject and have found myself stumbling around as I try and pass on what little I do know to my kids.

If you’re a parent, you know that kids learn more by what they see, not necessarily by what they hear. In essence, more is “caught” than “taught”. So, my plan has always been to model for my kids the way I want them to think and behave, and when it comes to prayer, this has been my strategy. I don’t want them to simply hear me talk about praying, I want them to hear my prayers.

There is just one problem.

As I tried to take the chaos of my thoughts and articulate them into cohesive prayers that a 5 year old can understand, I found myself sounding more like a Dr. Seuss poem than I did a spiritual leader. My prayers usually consisted of three word sentences that sounded like a broken record at the dinner table.

“God, thank you for our food.

Please help us with our mood.

Thank you for this day.

That’s all I have to say.


At the very least, I was frustrated when it came to teaching my kids how to pray.

Last week my wife headed out of town for the week to attend a conference for work. I typically work from home and have watched the kids several times by myself, so I wasn’t too worried about flying solo. That is, until my daughter spiked a fever and wouldn’t stop throwing up.

As it turns out, I don’t know much about this subject either.

There was one night in particular where I was absolutely exhausted and having a hard time getting my daughter to fall asleep. I called my son into her room and asked him to pray for his younger sister. I’d like to say that this was a strategic parenting move, but to be honest, I just needed a quick break.

After a little bit of convincing, I was able to finally talk my son into praying for his sister, and we both quietly bowed our head.

“Jesus, thank you for making sissy. I know she isn’t feeling well, so I wanted to ask you if you would help her rest tonight. You are a good God who likes to take care of us, so I know you will take care of my sister. Thank you for always loving us. We love you. Amen.”

Something profound happened in that moment.

My son reminded me of one of the greatest lessons of scripture: That the key ingredient to prayer is faith, and when it comes to faith, Jesus tells us that adults are not the role-models, children are.

My son believed God is who he says is he is. He simply prayed to his heavenly father, knowing he would be faithful to his own character.

Parents, use every opportunity to teach your kids about Jesus. As you eat, talk, play, walk, laugh, and sing, point your children to their heavenly father. Be faithful, and be consistent. But when they finally concentrate long enough to close their eyes and pray, be quick to listen. Take note as to how they approach our savior. And may they remind you what faith looks like.